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"It's over." Itachi whispered to everyone. More and more Elementals moving to their clearing. "He can harm us no more." In exhaustion, he fell to his knees, his arms cradling his Heart as he looked tiredly down at his beloved. "Can you hear me? You are free now. He holds you no more." not getting a response from his female, he felt the first tears build and fall, each one gracing her unmoving face, to gently cascade down her cheek with the rain. "Do you understand?" he rasped, choking on his air. "You are free. Please, answer me. Please." he begged in broken sobs. "Don't leave me. Don't go. Don't be a memory that is gone in a flash. Please don't go. Please! Please!" he went on, lifting her dainty hand and placing kisses upon it, wishing she would open her eyes.
All around, the other Elementals watched in silence, more and more arriving. Each of them unable to do anything but watch the pain of the Elemental that had ended the snake and saved them all. With each word that fell from Itachi's lips, with each plea begging for his Heart to rise, they cried with him.
Falling to their knees, each bowed their heads, and gave respect to the female that had faded for them to survive. That had paid the price of the battle with her life. In the clearing filled with Elementals, they cried with the Fire breather.
In the middle of it all, movement was seen by the females prisoned away. Moving from their beloveds and the males that had saved them, they ignored the calls of their mates as they circled the pair at the center. One by one, they fell to their knees, their eyes never wavering.
"Haku," Naru whispered, her hand resting on Haku's arm. "you were tied to us, as we to you. You gave us freedom, hope, purpose. You sacerificed yourself countless times, even as you slowly lost yourself, you cared and loved us. You are the queen meant to rule our people. The savior meant to protect us." Looking into Itachi's broken gaze, she gently pulled Haku out of his arms and placed her on the ground. Ignoring the other females gently steering him clear of the circle, Naru turned toward Haku's frozen beautiful form. One such as she was never meant to exist, but only one such as she was the answer to their prayers. "You are the one meant to lead our kind to our future. To find the lost and bring them home. To unite those that will never be found. I saw your memories. I lived your life. I felt your pain. You gave me the power to set us free, but you did it already without me doing anything. Now the power has only one place to go...home." running a hand through Haku's hair, she bent down and kissed Haku's cold forehead. "I am Naru and upon my name I will not let you die." she finished, gasping slightly as her body arched and a glow began to emerge from her body.
To her right she felt another reach out and touch Haku, "I am Sakura."
"I am Tenten." Tenten said following Sakura's lead.
And on and on it went.
"I am Hinata."
"I am Tayuya."
"I am Ino."
"I am Fuuka."
"I am Anko."
"I am Rin."
"I am Karin."
"I am Matsuri."
With each name spoken, gasp were heard throughout the crowd. Necklaces finally cracked and disappeared completely. A glow appeared from each one, swirling toward the sky in a pale blue. The storm around them, fading away as if running. As one, the females were lifted toward the air, their bodies arched as they closed their eyes offering all that was freely given. Each looking like spirit, an angel, a myth.
Once more, another figure moved through the crowd, kneeling outside the light dancing around them. "I am Sai, for you my sister, I offer life." he bowed, holding his hand out and mixing his gift with the lights. The dark was the strongest thing alive. It was never ending, never done. It grew with each second passed. Hearts held it. People created it. Nature provided it. It was the gift that would save the fallen angle.
As more darkness was pulled from his body, Sai only calmly pulled the darkness from the world around him, claiming it from the hearts and bodies of those near, but it was one that he took the most from. Turning his gaze to the man across from him, Sai watched as Itachi's dark gaze watched him, ignoring the shadows moving from his body to join the fray of beauty above. How one could hold such pain and live, Sai did not know. Not even he had this amount. How Itachi withstood it for so long... "Will you love her?"
"Yes." Itachi answered, his voice above a whisper, but Sai heard it as if he spoke in his ear.
"Will you save her?"
"Will you promise to set her free?"
"Then do so." Sai ordered. Without hesitation, Itachi jumped into the lights, his body covered by shadows as his power caused the lights above to explode around them. Everyone flinched away in pain at the bright lights, blinking quickly to clear the blurr.
When everything went dark once more, they slowly turned their gazes back to the circle and found the females unconcisous, and Sai watching the empty clearing that once held Haku.
"Where are they?" Sasuke demanded, holding Naru in his arms in a flash. "Where is my brother and Haku?"
"Safe." Sai answered, moving to Tayuya's side. "One day they will come back to us. Until then, we must move on." Turning to the others, some holding onto their females and others watching in shocked silence, he said, "Orochimaru was only one man. A war created by his hands. Lives lost by his presence. But there will always be another of him. There will always be one that will take his place. When that day comes, your true Queen shall come forth and save us once more. And beside her, our King will stand. Together, they will keep us safe." turning from them, he began to make his way farther from the others, intent on disappearing from their world. He and Tayuya will be part of history but no longer the present. If needed in the future, they were Haku's to call.
"Where do you go?" Shikamaru called out, his arms cradling his female. "Will you not help us rid of the next evil?"
"The next evil will not rise so soon." Sai chuckled, pausing to look over his shoulder. "Protect my sisters." without waiting for a reply, he pulled the darkness around him, going where no one would ever find them again.
"He leaves us with the mess to clean." Kiba grumbled, holding Hinata in a way that suggested he would never let her go. "What now?"
"We move on and fix what is broken." Shino answered with his Heart in his arms, the memories of his Sakura running through his mind. The last sight he saw of her before she was gone from his life. Never again would she leave his side. "We pick up the pieces and prepare for the next evil to come our way."
"So prepare for another war?" Neji questioned, holding Tenten close and breathing in her scent.
"Prepare to stop it before it begins." Sasuke answered, flames flickering around his and Naru's form. "For now, I will rest with my Heart, and love her for all time. Farewell my brothers." he bowed his head, and disappeared.
The earth slowly repairing itself caused everyone to turn their attention to Gaara, his face emotionless as Matsuri rested within his arms. "I can not leave the earth in pain and our dead will not be shamed, they will be buried by their families." he stated, the ground moving to even itself out, and to the shock of everyone, grass and trees began to take shape. Plants blossomed and bloomed left and right.
"I suppose it's his female that gave him that gift." Kankuro finally said, "I wonder what I can do now?" he thought, looking down at the red head in his arms. Karin, such a simple name that meant the world to him. "Come love," he smiled sadly at the sleeping female, wishing his sister could have met Karin...Temari, he thought as pain ate at his heart. "Let us restore the earth."
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to get aquainted with my Heart." Kakashi chuckled. "Isn't she a beaut?" he questioned, looking toward the purple haired female in his arms, his beautiful Anko. "Don't answer if you wish to live." in a flash he was gone. Quick to follow him was Yamato with his own Heart, Fuuka.
"What do we do with her?" Neji asked when it was just him, Shino, Shikamaru, Gaara, and Kiba. As one, all of the males turned to the last unclaimed female. "Rin, wasn't it?"
"Keep her safe until she rises once more." Shino answered. "Many will come to see if she is theirs."
"Who will protect her?"
"I will." Gaara answered. "She came with the second wave, with my Heart, I will keep her safe. Matsuri will need to see a face of a familiar to know that this is no dream, that it is over, when she wakes."
"Shall we stay and lend a hand?"
"No," Gaara shook his head. "For in this time we will mourn my sister."
"What?" Shikamaru gaped. "But-"
"She is safe in her mate's arms. In the end, she saved us too." Gaara cut him off, wishing he could have said good-bye, to Temari. He was glad Kankuro had whispered it through the earth after the battle, if it was before..."Go." he ordered, feeling a tear fall down his face.
With a bow from each male, they were gone.
ONE YEAR LATER
"Ino?" Shikamaru called her name, wishing she would welcome him as before and knowing she would not. She was still lost within herself. No longer under Orochimaru's spell, but her own broken heart. She loved him, that he knew, but her heart still broke.
It broke for what he did, or almost did. It broke for the child that was lost to them.
It had taken a week for her to wake and realize that she was free. In that time that followed, she cried nonstop as everything came back at once. She would only take comfort from him for a day before she pushed him away, choosing to stay in another room of their home. She took no visitors, no food from his hands. Nothing from anyone. She would walk their grounds, ignoring the pity looks of his clan, ignoring him following a few steps behind her.
He knew very little of the others. Sasuke, Shino, Neji, Kiba, each of them disappering far into their own worlds. Each of them sending only letters to eachother when needed but mostly keeping to themselves.
He knew that Kiba and Hinata were fixing their home for a child they wished to create.
He knew that Neji did not wish to have a child simply because he wished an annoyed Tenten to himself.
Shino was now a father of a one month old daughter named Fubuki and that she had her mother's hair. What else she looked like, he had yet to see.
He knew that Sasuke and Naru were traveling, stopping whatever war was threatening to come forth, ending it before it could start, Obito, Sasuke's nephew and Itachi's son, right beside them. They all planned to join the three, but all knew that these petty wars between nonclan Elementals were nothing compared to what was to come. Sai's words rang in all of their minds, and each knew he would not be wrong. Their clans training and preparing for the next wave. For a war was like an ocean, it was nonending, always sending it's most powerful tides sparringly.
He also knew that Gaara and his Heart, Matsuri were expecting a child soon and that Kankuro and Karin were watching over the club that Temari loved so much. He knew that a male had finally came forth to claim Rin.
Kakashi had shown up a few times with Anko in tow, but always left just as quickly as they came. What they did, Shikamaru wasn't sure, but the two were odd balls and neither of them cared to say a word of their little secret world.
Yamato had left Kakashi's side, mostly because of his own female, Fuuka, and their wish to start a family. Kakashi would not say it, but all knew that he missed his brother in all but blood. Both had been side by side for what seemed like forever. Shikamaru supposed that Kakashi and Anko made many trips to Yamato's home, wherever he had hidden it, and stayed longer there then anywhere else. But he also knew that it wasn't the same to Kakashi and Yamato, spending only days together, or weeks, when they used to be in eachother sights for centuries at a time, an hour the longest they would be separated.
He knew nothing of Sai or Tayuya. Both had left no trace of their presence the night they left. They were gone as if never real. Never before had Shikamaru seen such power from one. What Sai did that night...he had no words for it. He knew one day they'd see them, but Sai would stay in hiding for as long as he could. He hoped they were happy, and knew that they were.
Itachi and Haku were another mystery. No one knew where they were. No one knew when they'd return. Their absence let everyone know that the small wars happening were nothing. That the Elementals claiming to be the next power, were frauds, wiped away by Sasuke and his family. Only when Haku and Itachi returned, would they be watching.
"Ino?" He called again, frowning slightly when she still did not respond. Her form stiff as she looked into the distance. "Ino, please answer me." he begged, moving to her side. Knowing she wouldn't want it, but unable to not, he reached out one hand and placed it gently on her shoulder. When she still made no signs to acknowledge him, he placed his other hand on her waist. "Ino, what is wrong?" he questioned, moving behind her to wrap his arms around her chilled form. "Pleas-"
"Someone is coming." Ino whispered, staring intently into the distance. "Someone is coming."
"Who?" Shikamaru frowned, looking for any signs of a body. His body tense as his power shimmered around him. "Do you know?" he asked, moving to step in front of his Heart.
Not seconds later, Shikamaru caught a glimpse of a body moving toward them. A white cloak covering their form. The size of the person let Shikamaru know that they were male. When he stopped twenty feet away, most likely knowing that if he stepped closer, he would be attacked, Shikamaru called out, "Who are you?"
"I am Santa, Water user of my Mother's side," the male answered, reaching a hand up to remove the hood, "I am your son." he finished on a whisper.
Shikamaru felt his heart stop. The male had Ino's long hair. Ino's blue eyes. He resembled Ino and her side of the family. "That's not possible. We have no son, for ours is gone." he answered faintly, his throat clogging up as his chest tightened.
"But saved by another's hand." Santa said, meeting his gaze with hopeful, tearful eyes. "A woman came to me in a dream and told me that I was meant to come home now. My father figure, Iruka, also got a visit from the woman. He said that she was the woman that saved my life the last time. The woman reward Iruka's acts by bringing to him, his Heart, Rin."
"That tells us nothing." Shikamaru said, his arms around a tearful Ino. He wanted to believe it, but could it be true? Their last memory of their son held his face and was whisked away, lifeless, by Haku.
"Another woman, Naru, Heart of the Sharingan holder, came the next day with her mate. She told me that she would bring me home. She said that she knew my past and that of yours but was unable to remember all, with all that had struck her. She said that the memories come to her in dreams, and that ours came only two days before. She said that Haku's power changed me to save me. She had brought back my life from the dead at the cost of my features and my Father's gift. In turn I gained my Mother's clan's element. She said she would bring me to my Mother and my Father. To y-you." Santa said with trembling lips, his tears falling down his face.
"You..." Ino gasped, before moving from Shikamaru's arms and running toward Santa. "My son, you are my son." she sobbed, her petite form clinging onto the slightly larger male. "You are my child."
With tears forming in his eyes, Shikamaru quickly moved to their side and pulled them both into his arms. Holding them close he cried with them. "My son." he whispered, knowing that all would be well. His family was whole. Whatever evils that were to come, would never get the chance to take these two away from him. "Welcome home, my son."